A Ugandan midwife nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize visited one of Britain’s newest maternity units on Wednesday as she seeks to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth in her home country.
Esther Madudu, 32, met mothers and babies at the Royal London Hospital as part of a campaign to dramatically reduce the number of maternal deaths across sub-Saharan Africa.
She spoke with midwives at the hospital in Whitechapel, east London, to share their experiences and discuss how innovations around midwifery could help mothers in rural Uganda.
Ms Madudu revealed she is often forced to deliver babies by candlelight or using light from a mobile phone, while some mothers have given birth on her hospital’s concrete floor.
Speaking at the Royal London Hospital, she said: “The main thing we need is human resource. More midwives, more doctors and well-equipped centres.
“Every room here is well equipped. I have one room which caters for everything from deliveries to ward treatment and post-natal.
“We have head torches to work at night, but we also use the light from our mobile phones. Sometimes the mothers come with candles, but it is not easy to do a delivery by candlelight.”
Ms Madudu was given a tour of the Royal London Hospital’s birthing pool room and visited mothers in the 31 single en-suite rooms on the labour ward.
The hospital, which moved into new facilities in April, provides expert care for the most difficult pregnancies, from foetal medicine services to highly complex deliveries.
Sandra Reading, director of women’s services at Barts Health Trust, said: “It is a wonderful way for us to share knowledge through experience and look at possible opportunities for future collaboration.
“Clearly the number of midwives there (in Uganda) is very low. With more midwives I’m sure there’ll be better outcomes for women.
“I think with the commitment that Esther shows, I can see why her and some of her colleagues work to the high level they do.”
Ms Madudu has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of all African midwives to honour the role they play in saving the lives of mothers and their children on the continent.
She is also the face of the Stand Up for African Mothers campaign - a major drive to train an additional 15,000 African midwives by 2015.
The initiative, by the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref), is supported by Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel.
Every year in sub-Saharan Africa, around a million children are left without a mother because of death in childbirth, despite a 41% reduction in mortality rates in the last 20 years.
It is estimated that up to three-quarters of maternal deaths could be prevented and two-thirds of newborn babies’ lives could be saved by better care during childbirth.
Of the 40 countries with the world’s highest rates of maternal death, 36 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The UK’s maternal mortality rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, while Africa has rates as high as 1,100 in Chad, 1,100 in Somalia, 890 in Sierra Leone and 310 in Uganda.